We get a closer look at Borderlands 2 to see how the game is shaping up. Could this be Gearbox's best game to date? Find out in our preview.
Published on Jul 13, 2012
It’s probably no coincidence that the day CERN announced that it had found the god particle, thus sending the human race careening down an apocalyptic path of barren, desolate wastelands, Mad Max hairstyles and bad food – a bit like Chingford – Gearbox decided to unveil a few more details about its very own wasteland, Borderlands 2, sequel to the surprise hit first-person shooter/RPG hybrid of 2009.
Borderlands 2 takes place five years after the original game, if the plot really matters to you that much. The main antagonist is Handsome Jack, who’s taken over the Hyperion Corporation – because no action game is complete without a despicable all powerful mega conglomerate to throw bombs at – and deemed himself de facto leader of Pandora, the planet where the game takes place.
Naturally it’s up to you to make him regret any such delusions of grandeur, via the medium of bullets.
It’s a horrible, shameful thing to descend to such a rubbish cliché, but Gearbox has gone down the old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ route. This is still the same Borderlands you know and love, the same gleefully daft, cartoony fix of schlock ultra-violence that’s inspired as much by Looney Tunes as it is Westerns.
Not many other games have you firing a steampunk chaingun with incendiary bullets at incredibly dense bandits while some Ennio Morricone-esque music twangs away.
Believe it or not, but this isn't concept art.
But there’s been no resting on laurels either, as Borderlands 2 adds and improves on enough of the first game to sate bloodthirsty fans of the original, as well as suck in new players.
You’ll take the role of one of four new heroes – the chaps from the first game are still around, albeit as NPCs – for Borderlands 2, with naturally very different abilities.
There’s Salvador the Gunzerker, Maya the Siren, Axton the Commando and Zer0 the assassin. After picking the Gunzerker class because the name is too tempting for idiot manchildren, Salvador was sent on an errand in the town of Sanctuary, the hub of the game, thus giving him an excuse to have a wander, see the sights and put some holes in bandits and other monstrosities.
Salvador’s a tough little bugger; his special skill as a Gunzerker lets him dual-wield any weapon for a time, should he need to go postal and clear the room of every last wastelander that so much as looks at him funny. It’s fabulously cathartic and meat-headed.
Immediately, Borderlands 2 looks like an improvement over its predecessor. It’s clearer, more colourful and a heck of a lot grander than the first game. Funnier too, but more on that later.
Borderland 2 is designed around pure fun. The RPG elements are back for sure, and in a deeper, more integrated way with lots of lovely number-crunching and grinding, but its primary aim is making enemies explode and die as entertainingly as possible.
The character customisation is more in-depth than last time.
It doesn’t want to punish you for messing up or getting killed; it wants to keep you going for as long as possible while plying you with immensely gratifying kills and XP.
Nowhere is this fun philosophy more apparent than the fairly placed checkpoints and the returning Second Wind function, which gives you the chance to get back on your feet should you be able to make a kill near death.
All your guns are stacked with ammo too, and it drops easily, so there’ll be no timid stealth gameplay or funny crouch-walking to avoid fights.
Even more so than the first game, Borderlands 2 wants you to channel your inner Arnie. The feedback and recoil on your cel-shaded boomsticks have a good amount of kick, and they sound louder than God having a sneezing fit too.
Add the fact that they’re outlandish enough to make the weapons in Bulletstorm seem like something out of a dull military shooter, and you’ve a recipe for delicious, gory fun.
The irreverent attitude and character of the first game returns in spades too, and Borderlands 2 is genuinely chuckle-worthy. In the preview mission there’s a teenage bomb expert called Tiny Tina, who’s like a chimerical bastardisation of Fatman from Metal Gear Solid 2 and Princess Superstar, making bombs and dropping verses, as well as petulantly demanding her ‘badongadonk’ back from some thieving gits.
There were a few bugs to iron out, and it’s too early to tell yet whether or not the full game will wear out its welcome a bit like the first one did after numerous hours, but Borderlands 2 is very definitely on the right path.
In a world full of hellish beige and boring cinematic gameplay, we need the impudent, shamelessly silly likes of Borderlands 2 more than ever. Before CERN destroys us all anyway.